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New online magazine seeks business success stories in Baltimore

Entrepreneurs Lauryn Sargent and Scott Thompson have launched Origin Stories, a free weekly online publication dedicated to the histories of "the superheroes of business." And the D.C. business partners are looking for business success stories in Greater Baltimore.

Origin Stories highlights stories about a company's founding days and is featuring companies from around the country, says Thompson, who grew up in Rockville. Thompson says he will be speaking to organizations in Baltimore in the next month.

Each issue of Origin Stories is delivered via email and is designed to give entrepreneurs a mental boost when they need it most.

"It says, 'Here's the struggle, and here's the payout or the success,'" Sargent explains. In a nod to the comic book theme, publications are numbered. The most recent looks at the origin of Domino's Pizza combines pithy text blocks with bold colors and iconic images. "[The stories are] reminders that it's tough now, but there is a payoff to what you're doing."
 
Sargent credits her company's summer intern for Origin Stories' memorable design. "They are visually attractive and they promote our brand. And, she explains, referencing the motivational aspect of the product, "we wanted to give something back to the startup community."
 
The digital one-sheeters are a natural outgrowth of Sargent and Thompson's two sister companies, which create personal and corporate histories for clients nationwide.  On the personal side, Stories Inherited interviews, researches and works to capture a personal legacy. Sargent and Thompson and a team of historians weave narratives around photos, film footage and oral histories, often taking advantage of the multimedia format of e-books to allow a subject's voice to be passed on to future generations.
 
"We offer a spectrum of products," Sargent explains. A full-service product includes historian-conducted interviews. "If you do the interviews yourself—we'll give you a framework—we can help with editing and printing." 
 
Stories Incorporated evolved from Stories Inherited. "It's corporate storytelling," she says. "We interview between 10 and 30 past and current employees and the founders to tell [a company's] story and show progression." In addition to being a terrific artifact, the result can be used as a marketing tool for prospective employees or an onboarding tool for new hires. "We interviewed 30 employees at New Light Technologies in D.C.," Sargent says, "and created 20 videos about the industry, the evolution of the company, and so on."
 

Writer: Allyson Jacob 
Source: Lauryn Sargent and Scott Thompson

Butchers Hill web development firm Fastspot adding staff, new services

Butchers Hill web design and development firm Fastspot LLC is expanding. The company is adding a new department in analytics and search optimization to boost its marketing support for clients and will hire four employees to add to its staff of 14 over the next six months. It is looking for web developers and designers and project managers, President Tracey Halvorsen says.
 
The company is also adding new features to its free open source content management system, BigTree, to make it more efficient. The Butchers Hill web design and development company's updated product will be available this summer to the web community through its own website and that of BigTree’s.
 
“Anyone who wants to use it can,” Halvorsen says.
 
Fastspot introduced BigTree as open source software last year, where it turned out to be popular among higher educational institutions and museums. Halvorsen says the new features are being developed but declined to specify them as they are still being developed. She says the company will continue to sell it as part of a project.
 
“But we don’t want clients to feel locked into it and we want to see what others in the design and development community do with it,” she says.

Halvorsen says the company will roll out its new department over that timeframe. The department’s services will be offered on an hourly fee basis. The department comes in response to client request.
 
“After we launch a website, it’s important to know who is coming to the site, is the content performing as well as it should and is the structure of the site working?” she says.
 
Fastspot has a national client base of higher educational institutions, cultural institutions, nonprofits and museums. They include Bucknell University, Tufts University, Johns Hopkins University and the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.
 
Fastspot doesn’t take on projects of less than $50,000. Large projects can cost $200,000 to $500,000 and take from nine months to two years. Most higher education clients’ projects run in the six figures, she says. Fees are based on an hourly rate and annual maintenance contracts are available.
 
Fastspot was founded in 2001. Halvorsen says revenue at the privately funded company has increased by at least 10 percent per year since founding.
 
Source: Tracey Halvorsen, Fastspot LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash



Interactive marketing firm idfive relocates to larger office in Hampden

Interactive marketing and design agency idfive LLC moved its office from downtown to Hampden’s Meadowmill complex this year to accommodate its growing staff.
 
The company will hire four people by the end of the year, in sales, business development and design, and hired three shortly after the move. The company currently employs 16.
 
Andres Zapata, executive vice president of strategy, says idfive left a 3,200-square-foot office on East Redwood Street for a 3,700-square foot office at 3600 Clipper Mill Road. The company has use of a common conference room and facilities.
 
“We were out of space” downtown, he says. “It doesn’t sound like that much difference in square feet but the way the [Meadowmill] office is configured, we have more work space.”
 
The location offers free parking and is close to the Woodberry Light Rail, Zapata says. Zapata says idfive is making the office more eco-friendly by installing two large skylights in the roof. The skylights will bring in more natural light and reduce energy consumption.
 
Founded in 2005, idfive provides web design, social media and traditional advertising with a focus on higher educational institutions and nonprofits. Revenue was in the $5 million to $10 million range last year.
 
Last month, idfive published a book on higher education marketing. The book can be downloaded free through May. “University X: How to Rescue a College Brand from Bland” was written by Zapata, chief creative officer Sean Carton and marketing director Peter Meacham, and edited by creative director Matt McDermott.
 
After May, the book will be sold via Amazon and Google Play, with paperbacks and an iBook coming out as well. The paperback will be priced at $14.95; the digital versions, $6.99.
 
Source: Andres Zapata, idfive LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company more than halfway to reaching $6M capital campaign goal

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is more than halfway to reaching its capital campaign goal of raising $6 million to fund its move to a new home in downtown Baltimore's Mercantile Trust and Deposit Co. building.

To date, the company has raised about $3.5 million from board members, individuals and foundations to support its move. The nonprofit is on track to begin renovations of its new home within six months and debut productions at the historic property at 200 East Redwood St. in 2014.
 
The money raised will pay for the purchase and renovation of the building and initial operating expenses. Lesley Malin, managing director, says the campaign is in its “quiet phase.” When it reaches 80 percent of the goal, the company will reach out to the public for contributions although she does not have a timeframe for doing that.
 
“We’ve already had a couple of open houses for the public to see the building. We’ve also had wine-and-cheese events” for donors, Malin says. “We like quiet events, like open houses. We will not have a gala to raise money.”

The new home is two blocks from the Inner Harbor and has been the home of several nightclubs. Baltimore architectural firm Cho Benn Holback + Associates Inc. will convert the 14,000-square-foot, circa 1885 building into a 250-seat theater.
 
The Helm Foundation, whose director Scott Helm is a Chesapeake Shakespeare trustee, bought the building for the company. Other foundation donors are The Abell Foundation, which recently gave $250,000, The France-Merrick Foundation, which gave $200,000 and The William G. Baker Jr. Memorial Fund, which gave $25,000 for operating expenses.

It could also get some state money. In the current Maryland General Assembly session, companion House and Senate bond bills would provide $500,000 in matching grant money to the company. The bills have yet to be approved.

Until now, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has presented shows in the summer at an outdoor venue in Howard County's Ellicott City. The acquisition of the Baltimore theater allows the company to expand its season and its audience. In its new home, Chesapeake will present four to five productions as well as an annual Charles Dickens-inspired Christmas show while continuing its summer shows in Ellicott City.
 
Malin says she is in talks with the Baltimore City Public School system to offer every student the opportunity to see live theater, including an annual spring production of “Romeo and Juliet” especially for students.
 
Malin is also talking with the Baltimore School for the Arts, a public high school within walking distance of the theater, about “some kind of partnership,” she says. “Different things are on the table.”
 
“We are not just opening a theater but saving a beloved architectural landmark and an anchor in a troubled venue,” she says of the company’s new home. “We will serve as a cultural center for the neighborhood. It’s another reason to move and live downtown.”
 
 
Source: Lesley Malin, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 






M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino going for LEED certification

Two of Baltimore's most prominent construction projects, M&T Bank Stadium's $35 million renovation and the Horseshoe Casino, are both aiming for the green building standard known as LEED certification.

Lorax Partnerships LLC
, a Columbia-based sustainability consulting and certification company, is providing green services to the renovated stadium and the new casino. In order to get LEED certification, a LEED-qualified professional has to be involved from start tofinish, from the planning to selection of material and the construction.
 
The two-year renovation of the M&T Bank Stadium will begin this spring, with the National Football League Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens primarily footing the bill. The design phase of the $400 million casino will be completed this summer and construction by July 2014. It will feature three full-service restaurants and six local eateries

Lorax Managing Partner Neal Fiorelli says part of the renovation at M&T involves installing energy-saving measures at a so-far undetermined cost. Fiorelli says the Ravens are aiming for a minimum LEED Silver operational standard for an existing building. Green changes at the stadium will involve lighting and refrigeration, waste recycling, cleaning products and products for the concessions.
 
The US Green Building Council’s LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary certification for structures with different rating levels of Silver, Gold and Platinum. A so-called green building meets certain sustainability markers for material, construction process and exterior environmental work.
 
Lorax is involved in the design and construction of Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.’s new Horseshoe Casino, located near M&T Stadium.  Fiorelli says the goal is at least a LEED Silver certification for new buildings. He says it is too early to know what green measures will be involved.
 
Founded in 2003, the privately financed Lorax provides green and LEED services directly to commercial building developers and owners, corporate real estate agencies, design teams and property managers in the private sector. In the public sector, the company works directly or as subcontractors on local, state and federal buildings.
 
Fiorelli says the company’s typical breakdown is 60 percent private and 40 percent public buildings but in the past few years, the breakdown has tended to be half private and half public.

Since 2006, when LEED certification became the widely recognized  standard in the construction industry, Fiorelli estimates Lorax has done 120 LEED projects with another 30 to 40 in progress, They range from public libraries and school buildings to private health clubs and office buildings.
 
He says the company works with all the major commercial real estate developers in the area, including Manekin, St. John Properties and Merritt Properties. “It has become a selling point” to attract tenants, he says. 
 
At the same time, the building industry underwent a dramatic change. Sustainable materials that were once expensive special-order items are now widely available at competitive prices, says Fiorelli of items like heating/air conditioning systems, windows and lumber.
 
Lorax currently does $1 million in sales per year but Fiorelli is hoping to double that this year by emphasizing the company’s corporate environmental consulting service. The company also oversees new construction and the retrofitting of existing buildings, to a LEED rating or whatever sustainability level the client wants.
 
Lorax’s staff of eight have all qualified to give LEED approval. Fiorelli says the company is hiring up to two staffers this year as researcher and assistant project manager.
 
Source: Neal Fiorelli, Lorax Partnerships LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Transportation center opening at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Two transportation projects are wrapping up in Harford county this month.

A new transportation center is opening at Aberdeen Proving Ground this month. And the MTA will wrap up its $5 million federal-and-state project to build a new MARC Station at Edgewood, next to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, in April. The Edgewood station is intended to improve transportation to Aberdeen Proving Ground, a critical component in the US military and department of defense’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.

A joint venture of the Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor and the US Army Garrison at APG, the transportation center will promote alternative transportation, including carpools, vanpools and rail and transit to workers there. Center staffers will also encourage participation in the federal commuter program Guaranteed Ride Home Program.

The Maryland Transit Administration began work on the Edgewood MARC Station project in 2011 and opened the new station in December while continuing the installation of two ramps for people with disabilities. The project involved demolishing a post office on the site, reusing the existing platform and constructing the new station. The new station has platform shelter, bathroom facilities and ticket vending machines. Also improved were parking, signs and landscaping.

Karen Holt, of Harford County’s department of economic development, calls the MARC Edgewood station project “a long time coming. The upgrades reflect the expanding transit needs of our growing defense community.”
 
Aberdeen Proving Ground is Maryland’s third largest workforce employer with about 22,000 people. That figure includes new 8,200 new jobs that were relocated, mainly from northern Virginia and New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground thanks to BRAC.
 
The Edgewood station is at a key location on the MARC Train Penn Line, on a site next  to the Maryland Route #755 Gate to Aberdeen Proving Ground. The MARC train runs from Washington, D.C., though Baltimore and after Edgewood, continues to Perryville. The station is also located near Martin State Airport.
 
“Public transportation will play a vital role in the Aberdeen BRAC zone, and this new MARC Train station will help ensure that BRAC growth is smart growth,” says MTA spokesman Terry Owens, who notes that MARC service to Edgewood did not stop during the construction of the new station.
 
The Edgewood station averages 265 boardings per day, Owens says.  
 
Federal funding paid for $3.5 million, or 60 percent, of the $5 million project; the rest came from local and state funding.
  
Sources: Terry Owens, Maryland Transit Administration; Karen Holt, Harford County department of economic development and regional BRAC manager for Chesapeake Science and Security Corridor
Writer: Barbara Pash

Legislators want to make Pennsylvania Avenue an arts district

Baltimore delegates to the Maryland General Assembly have introduced a bill to create an economic development area to promote the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor in west Baltimore as a place to live and do business.

House Bill 203 designates the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor as an arts, business and cultural district, with tax incentives for developers, artists and cultural groups. The district's boundaries are from Orchard Street on the south to Fulton Street on the north, Pennsylvania Avenue on the west to McCulloh Street on the east. It includes the Upton, Druid Heights and Penn North neighborhoods. 
 
The bill's broad goals are to restore cultural landmarks, preserve and reuse historical buildings, encourage business and job development, establish a tourist destination and enhance property values. It authorizes tax credits for qualifying individuals who own or rent residential property or conduct a business in the district, or who move there after it has been established. Qualifying individuals are eligible for property tax credit and exemption from admissions and amusement tax.
 
The bill does not specify funding sources for the redevelopment. “You want to establish the district first and the dollars will follow,” says Democratic Delegate Keiffer Mitchell, Jr., a co-sponsor of the bill who represents the district. “There is an array of possible funding that the city and state could use.”
  
“Some commercial development is going on already on Pennsylvania Avenue but I’d like to encourage other types of development,” says Democratic Delegate Melvin Stukes, lead sponsor of the bill who also represents the district.
 
Stukes says he wants to encourage the development of the cultural aspects of the corridor, in particular the construction of a new arts center that would house the Royal Theatre and the Arena Players. The Royal Theatre opened in 1922 and was demolished in 1971. It was a major destination for black entertainers, including Cab Calloway and Ray Charles. The Arena Players is currently housed at 801 McCulloh St.
 
“I see a lot of black history in Baltimore disappearing and I am determined to save as much as possible,” Stukes says.
 
Mitchell says the district would not be the first such district in Baltimore. That honor goes to the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. 
 
“It will help not just Pennsylvania Avenue but all the housing surrounding it, from McCulloh Street to Pennsylvania Avenue,” Mitchell says.
 
Says Stukes, “This not something that will happen overnight. We don’t have preliminary figures for the cost and how long it will take. But we want to begin a serious discussion on having it happen.”

The bill had its first reading before the House Economic Matters Committee last month. To date, a hearing has not been scheduled. If passed, the arts, business and cultural district designation would need approval from the Baltimore City Council. 

Nonetheless, both Stukes and Mitchell say they are optimistic about passage in the General Assembly. “Economic development for the City of Baltimore is viewed favorably,” Mitchell says. “And in terms of revitalizing the arts in the city and that this is an historical area, it bodes well for passage.”
 
Sources: Melvin Stukes and Keiffer Mitchell, Jr., Maryland House of Delegates
Writer: Barbara Pash

Mindgrub Makes Big Play in Mobile Games Market

Mindgrub Games next week expects to release its third mobile game, “Escape! From Detention,” developed under its own brand and in conjunction with the Howard County Library System. Mindgrub Games, a division of Catonsville mobile application developer Mindgrub, plans to release more mobile games by the middle of this year. 
 
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services gave the public library a $100,000 grant to establish a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) laboratory for middle and high school students in the Savage Branch. Howard County then approached Mindgrub about the project.

“We created a basic game scenario and the kids were active participants in developing the game,” says Alex Hachey, lead Mindgrub Games designer. The game is downloadable for free from links on the Howard County Library System’s website.
 
The division is currently working on three new mobile games. One is a game for a client that may be announced later this month and two games under its own brand for a mid-2013 release.

Since Mindgrub Games was launched last summer, it has released two games. One, “Rescue Jump,” is its own brand. The second, “Scuba Adventures,” was done for a client, Discovery Kids, part of cable TV channel Discovery Network, and Zap Toys, a manufacturer in Hong Kong.
 
Mindgrub considered starting a games division two years ago, after an interactive festival showcased a mobile game that incorporated location technology, Hachey says.
 
“It was a spin on what Mindgrub had been doing. It got us thinking about games,” he says.
 
For “Scuba Adventures,” the division analyzed the market for competing games and worked with the client to develop a game to its specifications. The result is an educational game that sells for $1.99. Like all of Mindgrub Games’ products, it is available through Apple’s iTunes and the Android marketplace’s Google Play.
 
“Rescue Jump,” Mindgrub Games’ first product under its own brand, is a free download. It received over 1,300 downloads in its first two months.
 
Asked how the division makes money if the game is free, Hachey says, “Right now, it’s more of a learning objective. We are getting our feet wet in the game market. We are getting our name out. We can always add to or refine it [later] and then charge money.”
 
Since inception, Mindgrub Games has grown from three to seven full-time staffers. It is looking to hire Corona mobile applicaiton developers, illustrators and designers, depending on client contracts.
 
Source: Alex Hachey, Mindgrub Games
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 

Furbish Co. Sells Green Wall to Costco

Baltimore's Furbish Company unveiled its first product, SmartSlope, an eco-friendly green wall. The wall has been in development for two years and is now commercially available. It is being used by the first Costco in Washington, D.C., and constructionl was completed last week.  

Jimmy Dick, director of business development, says the "living" wall is intended to satisfy locally mandated storm water management regulations as well as for aesthetic considerations. The walls at Costco were installed as a vertical rain garden, with a circulating system that captures and recirculates storm water to water the plants that grow on the walls.
 
"The [DC] district told [Costco] it had to handle its storm water on site and this is how they are doing it," says Dick. Another green wall is scheduled to open next year at Phase 2 of The Shops at Dakota Crossing, in the DC area, as a component of its storm water management system.

Furbish was formed in 2003 to install and service green roofs. While it will continue that aspect of the business, Dick says it is developing products as well. SmartSlope, the living wall system, is its first product. Modern Foundations, in Woodbine, manufactures the system.
  
The living retaining wall system consists of individual concrete modules, each 20 inches wide by 15 inches deep by 8 inches tall. The modules link together.
 
After the modules are installed, SmartSlope provides native grasses, herbs and plants to grow over and cover the wall. The company’s system costs about $5 more per square foot than the typical concrete wall installation of $25 per square foot.
  
However, the majority of SmartSlope's business remains green roofs. This consists of installing a roof-top drainage system, layer of soil and plants that can withstand weather and wind.
 
Dick says that 99 percent of its green roof business is with commercial customers. “There’s no return on investment for residential customers,” he says. “Also, home roofs are not built for the weight” of a green roof.
 
Federal and municipal regulations and tax rebates for installation of storm water management systems have spurred growth of the green roof industry. Dicks says that SmartSlope already has $3 million worth of green roof contracts for 2013.
 
It has installed green roofs on behalf of Princeton, Rutgers and George Washington universities; a US Department of the Interior building; and the Baltimore Hilton, connected to the Convention Center.
 
In 2009, Furbish received an investment of $81,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, a partnership of the state Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland. The funding was used to develop SmartSlope. The Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute is a minority investor.  In August, SmartSlope received about $200,000 from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships for development of alternative blends of green roof material.
 
Michael Furbish is the founder of the company. In 2008, it moved into an 18,000-square foot former warehouse in the Brooklyn area of the city that was renovated for office use and retrofitted with solar panels to provide radiant heating and hot water. The company has 15 employees.
 
Source: Jimmy Dick, SmartSlope
Writer: Barbara Pash

Romney Campaign Benefits Canton Tech Firm

Mitt Romney lost the presidential election but the Canton company that created the Romney shop on the Republican Party candidate’s website says it emerged a winner.

Digital agency Groove Commerce implemented and ran Romney’s e-commerce site, which they say attracted thousands of orders per day and is still operational.The campaign job has given the company a boost in the e-commerce world. "It's helped our visibility and reputation," says Groove Commerce CEO Ethan Giffin.

The company has 22 employees and is currently hiring four to six additional staffers, in particular skilled PHP developers, front-end developers, online marketers and an executive assistant.

Giffin emphasizes that Groove Commerce is not a politically focused organization. Rather, the company saw the offer to build a scalable website for a presidential candidate, a first for them, as a challenge.The Romney campaign set the prices for items in the store, from T-shirts for $30 to bumper stickers for $5. Also for sale are hats, posters, lawn signs, iPhone cases, water bottles and lapel pins.
 
Giffin does not know when the campaign website will be shut down. He can’t disclose sales information, which were donations to the campaign. He can say that at certain points in the campaign – such as when Congressman Paul Ryan was announced as the vice presidential candidate and during the Republican National Convention – the shop got thousands of orders per day.

The Romney campaign approached the Emerging Technology Center company because of its partnership with Magento, an e-commerce software firm headquartered in California. The campaign was interested in using Magento, an open source platform that has lots of services and add-ons that can be integrated and is highly scalable.

"It's very popular in e-commerce circles," he says of Magento. "It was a perfect fit in scale"  for the campaign shop. “It was a very cool project,” he says.
 
Groove Commerce began working on the website shop last spring. It officially launched a few days before July 4th weekend with an offer on Facebook for a discounted Romney T-shirt. More than 20,000 T-shirts were sold.
 
Giffin says the company brought a new approach to the campaign online store. “Most political online stores are very basic and bland. Their focus is the political space but they don’t know the tactics the average retailer uses to sell more products,” he says. “We wanted it to be more of a retailer-shopping experience.”
 
The privately funded Groove Commerce was founded in 2007. It moved to a 2,000-square foot space in the Emerging Technology Center in 2010; it now occupies 4,500 square feet.
 
The company focuses on web design and development and on inbound marketing. Giffin describes the latter as using aspects of search engine optimization, content creation and blogging, email marketing and paperclick advertising – “getting people to take action once they come to the website,” he says.
 
Groove Commerce has 50 clients, ranging from Lax World, lacrosse retailers, to Corsair Memory, a builder of computer memory, and the state’s Habitat for Humanity chapter.
 
 
Source: Ethan Giffin, Groove Commerce
Writer: Barbara Pash

Weinberg Foundation Doubles Baltimore City School Library Project

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation is more than doubling its Baltimore Elementary and Middle School Library Project from the original $2 million commitment to $5 million over the next four years to renovate and/or build libraries at 12 Baltimore City public schools.
 
The international foundation, headquartered in Baltimore County, announced the library project in December 2011. Less than a year later, it is unveiling its expanded initiative at a Sept.12 celebration at Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School, one of three schools to receive funding in the project’s first round. The other two schools are Moravia Park Elementary and Southwest Baltimore Charter School.
 
Amy Gross, Weinberg Foundation’s program director for education, children, youth and families, says the library project was expanded because of its early success. It is already partnering with 30 businesses, nonprofits and government entities on the project.
 
Says Gross, “We wanted to extend our commitment now for planning and to get others involved.”
 
At the September celebration, the second round of schools is being announced. This round also involves three schools, one of which is the East Baltimore Community School, due to open in the 2013-2014 academic year, for which a new library is being built. Gross declined to name the other two schools before the event.
 
Gross says that as part of a federal funding process, Baltimore City picks about six schools per year with library needs. The Weinberg Foundation uses that list as a basis for choosing project recipients although it also has its own criteria.
 
“We look for a school with a full-time librarian and strong principal support as to how the library can be utilized through the school, not only for instruction but for community involvement,” she says.
 
In the schools in the first round, Gross says that the existing libraries were gutted and a new design installed. Work included a new layout, new furniture, and additional books, computers and e-readers, aka nooks.

“We pretty much stayed in the footprint of the [existing] libraries but they look nothing like their previous spaces,” says Gross, adding that in new schools, the library space may be expanded. “Basically, it’s what makes sense for the school.”

The cost and size of the library project varies with the school. The spaces average about 2,000 square feet. The total cost of all construction and programmatic activities runs about $980,000 per library.  The foundation contributes, on average, $335,000 per library for capital and operating costs, with a U.S. Department of Education program contributing $360,000 and the city school system $145,000 per library. Partners provide the rest in additional financial and in-kind contributions.

The library project goes beyond the physical.  The foundation’s funding provides for professional development and to hire an additional staffer at each library to assist the librarian. Partners are providing other services, among them:
 
• Barnes and Noble, nooks and instructions to teachers on using them in an educational setting;
 
• Dyslexia Tutoring, teacher training for early identification;
 
• Enoch Pratt Free Library, management of the Parenting Corner that is being set up in each library, with books on parenting  and job search, and access to the Pratt system; and
 
• Wells Fargo, financial literacy training.
 
 
Source: Amy Gross, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Writer: Barbara Pash

GBTC Appoints New Board Members

GBTC, Baltimore's main networking group for the tech community has unveiled its new board, to be officially installed later in the month. It's the latest of changes at the group in recent months, starting with Jason Hardebeck's appointment as executive director late last year. 

Of the 30-member board, half are new while the other half are holdovers from the previous board.

Known as a community for innovators, entrepreneurs and startups, GBTC is in the midst of other changes as well. Among them are the introduction of a weekly video show talking about events for that week and a regular newsletter, to be published every other week.

The show airs on GBTC's blog every Monday at 3 p.m. It can be viewed and download from the blog and/or linked to Twitter. "We're hoping it will become the central place people go to find out what is going on," says Sharon Paley, a GBTC staffer.

Hardebeck says the new board reflects gb.tc's expanded vision for the innovation community to represent a broader mix of members. While the new board is a mix of new and continuing members, the real difference is that the GBTC board will be more active, Hardebeck says.  

The moves comes just months after the appointment of Hardebeck last December as executive director of the nonprofit amid criticism about declining membership and declining revenue from dues.

"This is not a place where you come to a meeting every couple of months to catch up on what has been going on," Hardebeck says. "Our board will be engaged and active with all facets of gb.tc's mission, including cultivation of shareholders and participation in events and programming. There is way too much to do and too many opportunities for gb.tc to make a difference for just the GBTC team. Our board will be an extension of our efforts." 

Gb.tc eliminated its physical office and changed its membership model. Instead of charging membership fees, anyone who wants to be involved in GBTC can.

Paley says the membership group focuses on metro Baltimore, and anyone involved in the “innovation industry,” including software, hardware, the internet, gamers, developers and designers, as well as those affiliated with the industry like accountants, attorneys and marketers.
 
Since doing away with its physical office, Paley says the four-person staff will be doing more outreach, visiting places where tech companies work and getting an idea of the kinds of programs they want to attend and that sponsors are willing to support.
  
Sources: Jason Hardebeck and Sharon Paley, GBTC
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 


Second Annual Hackathon To Offer More Cash Prizes

Geeks get their day once again at Baltimore's 2nd annual Hackathon. The event promises to be bigger, better and, most importantly, more lucrative than the first hackathon, held in 2010.

Described as a "high-tech science fair," the original hackathon attracted hobbyists, students and professional programmers who, in a couple of days, were supposed to take their tech idea from concept to creation. Ideas ranged from software handling organizational systems to transcription service. 

The same format applies to the 2nd Hackathon, which runs from June 8 at 6 p.m. through June 10 at 6 p.m. at the headquarters of Advertising.com, located at 1020 Hull St. in the Locust Point neighborhood. 

"We're trying to make it an annual event. The idea is for people to come together and [during those three days] work on projects that are technical in nature, either software or hardware,” says organizer Jason Denney, a member of Baltimore Node, a member-run space for hacker space.

There are hackathons all over the country. Since the first Baltimore hackathon, says Denney, two more sponsors have been added to the original five. This has enabled the organizers to add more prize money. This year's sponsors are Northrop Grumman, Looking Glass, Advertising.com, Paypal, Code for America, smart logic and Thunderbolt Labs. 

At the first event, a prize was given for best overall hardware or software project, team or individual. This year, there will still be a best overall hardware or software prize. But, in addition, there will be prizes for smart design, most difficult technology, aesthetics and public service project. Winners in each category will receive a $600 cash prize.

Organizers are hoping to increase attendance from the original event's 70 people to 100. Denney says anyone can register and compete for the prizes. Registration and tickets are online. A nominal fee covers entrance, food and a T-shirt. 

Source: Jason Denney, 2nd annual Hackathon
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

Columbia Neighborhood Center Gets Solar Energy

A Columbia Association neighborhood center is getting some of its energy from the sun.

ATR Solartech installed 1  ii iininins2 solar tracking systems at the River Hill Pool and the River Hill Neighborhood Center in Howard County's Clarksville. 
 
Robert Lundahl, ATR's vice president of automation systems, says it is also in discussion with the Columbia Association about the installation of a solar car-charging station. The charging station would provide electricity for electric vehicles.
 
However, unlike other such stations, which derive their power from an electrical source, the ATR station would also have solar tracking devices to collect energy to offset the power used by the electric vehicles. 
 
Columbia Association is looking at locations for a station, Lundahl says. 

Lundahl says the River Hill installation is the first the Columbia-headquartered company has completed with the Columbia Association, although talks are underway for other projects similar to River Hill’s.
 
Lundahl says that each of the River Hill systems consists of two solar panels mounted on a motorized tracker that calculates the position of the sun and automatically follows it during the day. The solar tracker produces 30 to 34 percent more energy than regular fixed solar panels, he says.
 
The systems are designed to convert energy to grid-tied power and, on average, will provide more than 26 kilowatt hours per day. The total cost of the 12 systems was $35,000, for the solar trackers, installation and wiring, he says.
 
“With solar rebates and incentives," says Lundahl, “the installation will pay for itself in less than six years," then continue to operate for at least another 15 years.
 

 
Source: Robert Lundahl, ATR Solartech
Writer: Barbara Pash; innovationnews@bmoremedia.com
 
 
 
 

New iPad Magazine Celebrates Small Spaces

Imagine a German architect colliding with Charm City’s design sensibilities.  
 
That’s exactly what Daryl Landy did when naming his new iPad magazine Rohous.
 
Yes, the name is a take on Baltimore’s ubiquitous rowhouses. Now you see what we mean? There's even a bar over the first O. 
 
Though the magazine launched this month, it’s been at least 10 years in the making – obviously long before the launch of the iPad, Landy says.
 
The former director of Pigtown Main Street Street, who holds a masters degree in industrial design, says he has always been interested in home furnishings and architecture and living well in small spaces. Rohous highlights homes and businesses that contain less than 1,200 square feet.
 
“I never understood why people had to have 5,000 square feet and they use just two rooms,” Landy says. “I just thought it was a lot of waste.”
 
Landy himself renovated his 1,100-square-foot Pigtown rowhouse.
 
The magazine will feature small spaces around the world, not just in Smalltimore. The debut issue highlights homes in Paris, Amsterdam, Marrakech and Barcelona. Rohous takes a look at smaller restaurants as well.
 
A 12-month subscription costs $9.99 for the first 1,000 subscribers. Thereafter, it costs $12.00. It’s available on the iPad and soon, on other tablets. You can read it on your desktop and laptop as well.
 
“It seems like the timing is perfect,” Landy says of the new magazine. “We’ve been seeing a lot of things about people who are forced to downsize.”
 
Writer: Julekha Dash; julekha@bmoremedia.com
Source: Daryl Landy, Rohous
 
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